Reading “Reading Montaigne” 3: Quotable Unquotability and Metonymic Quotation

(I just realized that I wrote this several days ago but forgot to post it.  Sorry it is out of order, but I left its number in its name, so that it can be placed.)

Final Preliminary:

I have mentioned Montaigne’s quotable unquotability.  I have mentioned that it makes writing on Montaigne difficult.  So what is to be done about it?  Am I setting up for a criticism of Merleau-Ponty’s quotation of Montaigne in “RM”?  No.  I am setting up for a practice of quotation that I want to continue and that I reckon Merleau-Ponty to use.  As I have mentioned, Merleau-Ponty quotes only from Bk III of the Essays; I am going to do the same.  Merleau-Ponty’s Montaigne is the Montaigne of Bk III.  I take Merleau-Ponty to be practicing what I will call “metonymic quotation”.  That is, he quotes Montaigne intending for the quotation to be a part that trails the whole, where the whole is first the essay from which the quotation is taken and second Bk III itself.  This means that Merleau-Ponty writes and quotes really only for those who are capable of appreciating the metonymic quotations, those who know the particular essay and who know Bk III.  I intend to do the same.  But I will, at least in places, reduce the metonymic strain and supply more of the relevant section of the essay quoted than Merleau-Ponty does.  When an author is quotably unquotable, metonymic quotation is the best strategy for avoiding what I will call “sententious quotation”, a practice of quotation that makes it look like single sentences carry the burden of a moral, a meaning, in particular a moral or meaning that is capable of isolated appreciation, that carries, as it were, its entire moral burden or burden of meaning between its initial capital and its period.  Metonymic translation sees what is quoted as, in a sense borrowed from Gottlob Frege, unsaturated, as needing completion–not exactly in the way of a Fregean concept, nor exactly in the way of a Fregean truth-functional operator (say, negation), but in a way related to them.  In other words, the quoted sentence is to be understood as abstracted, in specific way, from its context, not extracted from it.

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